Heavy Feather Review: Hillary Leftwich Reviews Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities

Reviews mean so much to writers, especially to Indie writers, so I’m so grateful to Hillary Leftwich and Heavy Feather Review for this gorgeous review of Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities–THANK YOU!

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Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, by Nancy Stohlman. Boston, Massachusetts: Big Table Publishing, October 2018. 104 pages. $15.00, paper.

Excerpt: “If you’ve ever stood and stared at yourself in a funhouse mirror and saw yourself as someone you don’t recognize, distorted or with two faces, then you have a pretty good idea of how Stohlman’s latest collection of oddities takes you through the gambit of freakshow possibilities in each of her stories. Stohlman, a performer herself, speaks of a childhood growing up with a circus clown for a mother and a father who seems to be obsessed with placing in the Guinness Book of World Records for various silly attempts.

Although the obvious thread connecting these stories together seems to be Stohlman’s quirky, clown-angst teenage years followed by confusing adulthood scenes, there’s another side to this thread that runs parallel to this theme. Much like the two-faced lady or the conjoined twins, Stohlman seems to be running alongside of her twin from another dimension, a more popular, put together version. But with anything that reflects bigger, better, and brighter, Stohlman summons emotions in each piece that can’t be blurred or escaped from. That’s what makes this mixed bag of oddities about as real as it can get.

Keep reading on Heavy Feather Review here

Review of The Monster Opera on Colorado Drama.com

The Monster Opera

by Bob Bows

Every year at this time, we conjure monsters of all sorts to give ourselves a good fright and an excuse to indulge ourselves in gobs of refined sugar—which often turn out to be the same thing—but rarely does anyone give these ghoulish spirits their proper dramatic due.

Erik Wilkins as Libretto Santiago and Nancy Stohlman as Ursula Leonard
Erik Wilkins as Libretto Santiago
and Nancy Stohlman as Ursula Leonard

So, what better way to exalt our resident monsters than to present them in operatic form, as is so melodramatically accomplished in this delightful mashup, with book by Nancy Stohlman and score by Nick Busheff.

Composer Nick Busheff
Composer Nick Busheff

In search of a scary plot for their next opera, Ursula Leonard (Stohlman), with the assent of her husband Hugo (Toby Smith), agree that she should go to Mexico City, where she discovers the hidden dark secret of Libretto (Erik Wilkins) and Magdelena Santiago (Marta Burton), once renowned opera singers.As the story grows inside of Ursula, so do the repercussions of the Santiagos’ sinister doings, until we arrive at a suitably horrific dilemma.

Marta Burton as Magdelena Santiago and Jonathan Montgomery as The Critic
Marta Burton as Magdelena Santiago
and Jonathan Montgomery as The Critic

Stohlman’s narrative and dialogue deftly dances away from pinpointing the source and nature of the evil running through the story, leaving that to our imaginations. Busheff’s score is a masterwork of haunting tunes and unnerving atmospherics that amplify the unfolding horrors. Wilkins’ and Burton’s operatic riffs are compelling and, in Burton’s case, intentionally hilarious.The Monster Opera will return next Halloween.

Bob Bows

– See more at: http://coloradodrama.com/monster_opera.html#sthash.gT1ZwVyP.dpuf

Matthew J. Hall’s review in Screaming With Brevity

Screaming with Brevity


A Review: The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories by Nancy Stohlman

Nancy StohlmanIt has been suggested that the popular trend of Flash Fiction is largely due to lazy readers and busy lives. Nancy Stohlman’s The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories is a collection of Flash Fiction where the content justifies and even defends its own form. Here is an author who truly understands what it means to strip a story down to its essential elements. While this style of writing may be well suited to those with a limited attention span, or the modern individual whose hectic schedule refuses to make allowances for art – this book is far more than an exercise in saving time and effort. Furthermore, this carefully crafted set of stories is too engaging to be fobbed off as part of a popular trend; these shorts are a perfectly balanced mix of humour, irreverence, absurdity and an occasional touch of pathos.

As the title suggests, the book has two themes running through the collection. There are various well-known biblical tales, told from a somewhat humanistic perspective. Stohlman’s tongue in cheek humour is restrained and subtle. While she clearly relishes the odd dalliance with irreverence, only a fanatic would describe these stories as blasphemous. In the story, Annunciation, we are introduced to the mother of Christ as a wholly relatable character. In Lazarus, we find poor-old Lazarus wondering what to do with his second shot at life. Perhaps the best of the bunch – in terms of saying more with less – is the story, Jonah. In the space of two sentences the classic yarn is turned on its head with a rare treat of sarcastic, self-mocking brevity.

The second theme, and perhaps the stronger of the two, is the vixen – the female fox. The strange story of The Fox is essentially a love story, but it is one you won’t have read before. Told in seven, sensual instalments throughout the book, The Fox ruminates on age-old human experience, within a uniquely new and rather absurd concept.

Outside of the two themes some of the subject matter delves into fairly dark territory, but never becomes uncomfortable or sinister; and there is absurdity aplenty. Some of these stories could be described as slightly quirky, whereas others are downright bizarre. The socially awkward penis, an affair with a cardboard cut-out, a miniature version of the boyfriend who fits neatly in the inner pocket of a purse and a literal meeting with the younger self are some of many unlikely scenarios that could easily have slipped into irritating silliness in less capable hands. Fortunately, Stohlman steers clear from those qualities one might associate with bizarro fiction; that is to say that all of these smoke-long tales make sense and have a purpose.

The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories is a thoroughly entertaining trove of laughter. More importantly, it pokes fun at the human experience without trivializing it. There are moments of unabashed joy and mountains of broken sadness. There is hopeful longing and spiteful loathing and its surrealism is built on a foundation of realism. Nancy Stohlman is a writer who understands the power of silence and knows how to scream with brevity. Buy your copy of The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories from Amazon in paperback or Kindle here.

Matthew J. Hall

Matthew J. Hall

An avid reader, writer and reviewer of poetry and short fiction. Author of self-published poetry collections From the Depths and Through the Madness (May 2013), Play the Sad Violin (July 2013) and In the Bleak Hours (October 2013). Most recent chapbook, Pigeons and Peace Doves will be available through Blood Pudding Press June 2015.

Skylight Press Review: “A Few Strange New Hybridities in Literature”

Vixen ScreamThe Vixen Scream & Other Bible Stories by Nancy Stohlman
(Pure Slush Books)

As I have found out for myself, there are no limits to what a mixilating group of short stories can become. A veritable championer of Flash Fiction, Nancy Stohlman embarks upon a strange and irreverent series to situate the reader with death-row volunteers, stewardesses, Avon-lady stalkers, magicians and homunculi just for starters. There are some flashes to be sure but these stories aren’t mere formal reductions or glib plot encapsulations come about by editorial stripping. This is a strange and enticing grouping of vignettes where skeletal structure is ruled by omission or by the vague projections of causality. We traverse momentary realms from the surreal to the absurd to the mythopoetic, often propped up by illogical scaffolding or some labyrinthine state of limbo. There are hints of Kafka, Hoffman, Borges – even more contemporary types like Jonathan Carroll or Angela Carter perhaps. But among these twisted miniatures runs two seams that hint at some totalizing purpose; the first being a set of blasphemous biblical paraphrases and the second offering the on-going presence of the Red Fox. This is an odd and intriguing juxtaposition but the returning fox, although via unconventional treatments, seems to offer the same totemic reverence often found in Native American and Scandinavian myths. So often cast as the trickster, and here infiltrating a world of literary tricks, the presence, although tragic, is a grounding one.

Read whole article including other reviews from Skylight Press here